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[TSOY] Cults and secret societies

Started by Twobirds, August 18, 2006, 09:15:45 PM

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Clinton has mentioned that he's worked on a supplement for The Shadow of Yesterday called "Yesterday's Heresies."  He's linked the doc-in-progress before, so I think it's okay if I throw this out and see if people like it.

I wrote up details for two of the secret societies mentioned in the 'core' book, and included several Secrets and Keys.  This is my first try at making that sort of stuff, and I don't know how good it is.  Any feedback is appreciated.  I tried to stay faithful to what Clinton said in the original text - the ideas, at least.  I'm using these in the game I'm starting soon, I hope.


THE MOON-MEN - Zaru who wish to spread Zu as far and as fast as possible to encourage the collapse of the world and the end of all living things.  Their greatest hope is to find some way to copy words of Zu.

The Moon-men have no organizational leader, only local ones.  The concept behind the Moon-men, some say, is simply insanity - when you see old men being beaten by foreigners in a field of mud, and hear about thousands butchered on the field of battle for no other reason than an old crown, and the moon stares you in the face every single night... well, is there is a reason to NOT be insane?

The Moon-men believe the world is supposed to be broken, and want to encourage it to hurry up and finish.  Sect leaders are merely the ones who have the most apparent insane lust for the end of the world.  Age, sex, and race are no barrier to such positions.  One is free to come and go in the group as they like.  Most Moon-men meetings are done around a fire, telling stories about what everyone has done to hasten the world's end.  The leader, if there is considered to be one, might ask the others to help him in a task.  They can say yes or no as they like.

When Hanish changed the way Zu works, many bad things happened.  Some say much WORSE things were going to happen, and Hanish prevented those at the introduction of others.  The Moon-men say this is completely wrong; that Hanish wanted to break the world and leave it broken.  Anything anyone is doing, right now, is meaningless, and it is best to hurry the world on its path to self-destruction.

Many ideas have worked their way into this vague intention.  They seek to expose the presence of secrets, tell truth where there are lies, give Zu to those who can cause the most destruction, and confuse those who think they know best.  They hate organization, and therefore despise both the Ammenite system as well as the stoic Zaru traditions.  Destruction, in their mind, is best accomplished by affecting people.  Give a man power, and he will abuse it.

One of the largest goals for the Moon-men is to find some way to copy Zu words.  Though this seems to contradict what Hanish intended, they believe as long as it's effectively impossible for *everyone* to learn a word, then greed (and the natural state of the world) will only cause destruction.

- Zu is meant to be used - and there is no 'wrong' or 'right' use of Zu, only its use.
- It is always better to incite a man to violence than watch him be calm.
- To hurt a man, you must hurt his mind, not simply his body.

Moon-men recognize each other, and this is the only way new members recognize each other.  A 'new' mind (unfamiliar with the Moon-men) will recognize a like soul in another man, and if the two speak, the latter will explain the group.  The name itself is merely a translational issue; the word for 'moon' is derived from 'a new madness'.  Both Moon-men and others accept the name easily.

The primary resource that Moon-men can get, if they search hard enough, are the horded supplies of another Moon-man.  Some are terrible collections of dangerous objects, such as explosives and poisons (there is a rumor of a Moonman ratkin who believes himself human, who has a well full of a poison that gives the imbuer ecstatic dreams before destroying their minds).  Many, similarly, are familiar with the poisons brewed by Ammenites, and will happily teach others of the more vile ones.

Zu, to Moon-men, is a weapon to be swung at all times.  Some Moon-men do nothing but sit in the forest and use their word, over and over and over, eating and resting only when necessary.  Such curious places, where the plants are all a thousand times bigger or a thousand times smaller, or where there are hundreds of panthers in a huge, seething mass, are known only to Moon-men.

As above, very little.  Many Moon-men know each other (see below, actually) and groups form only by circumstance.  Sometimes a charismatic leader will bring several together to accomplish some great tragedy, but there is no real organization in this.  The concept behind the Moon-men is a unconscious conclusion for many people; the only organization is recognizing others who have realized this - and forcing others to realize it as well.  This is not as difficult as it sounds; many Zaru are near the point of breaking already.  Insanity is a welcome respite from trying to hold on.

The Moon-men only restrain themselves when they know they can cause more damage farther down the road.  Even then, some don't restrain themselves.  A few Ammenite leaders have learned never to execute a Moon-man in public; the screams of the condemned often spontaneously cause people in the crowd (who are on the verge) to become Moon-men.  Most Ammenites insist that such infection is not possible.

Recognizing a Moon-man is almost automatic to those who know what to look for in another man's eyes - there is a flicker there, a terrible secret, but it can only be recognized by a fellow Moon-man.  Very few outsiders have learned to see this.  And they are not particularly stable.


Secret of Moon-men Recognition - You immediately recognize other Moon-men, and will be recognized yourself.  Recognizing others is silent and unobvious.  If you do not wish to be recognized, your eyes must be covered, and if you wish to speak, you must make a Deceit roll to not be recognized.

Secret of Madness - On a successful Sway roll, you can choose to spend up to 3 dice from your Instinct pool and cause your target to lose twice that amount from *his* Reason pool.

Secret of the Repeated Word - Zu is not meant to be kept in pockets, the Moon-men say, it is meant to be used often.  Every time you say a word of Zu, you can say it again, without paying the associated cost in Reason, one more time that day.  This can only be done once per word, per day.

Secret of the Expletive (Word) - Usually, Zu is said using Reason.  A Moon-man with this Secret says the chosen word instinctively and without thought.  The chosen word now uses Instinct as its Pool.

Key of the Infectious Madness - Others say you are mad - but you know better, and soon, so will they.  Earn 1 XP every time you shake someone's beliefs with no intent other than to shake them.  Earn 3 XP if you really do cause someone to lose control, even temporarily.

SONS OF HANISH - Zaru using Zu in reasonable ways to free Zaru from Ammeni.

Oddly, the Sons of Hanish are presided by an old man who lives far to the west, in the heart of Zaru.  Though he is old (some say he is the oldest Zaru in existence), he believes in the progression of the world and the responsible use of Zu.  He advises many, and often acts as a Zu-sorter for others who wish to learn certain groups of syllables, and he encourages his 'firsts' to do the same.  The Sons act mostly independently, but the Old Man (as he is known) is an advisor and arbiter to all the rest.  The Zaru traditions are preserved greatly, beyond of the attitudes toward Zu.

The Sons of Hanish believe that Hanish acted wisely - and that the state of the world must be interpreted as something he worked toward.  Everyone knows what he said - "I would break the world" - but this can, of course, be interpreted to mean break the world in one way and create a new way for it to work.  The Sons now work toward responsible use of Zu, and resist the MISuse of Zu by Ammenites and blood-thieves like the Moon-men.  They are almost all anti-slavery spiritual humanists, and hope that someday wise men and women will use Zu as all men use their talents, and move Zu to where it is needed most.  Zu is a tool, perhaps the greatest of tools.

PRECEPTS (simple or complicated):
- Zaru traditions should be maintained - the Eldest rule, murder is the greatest crime, and a village is a family.
- Any man can be an enemy, and any man can be an ally.  Walk carefully.
- Zu should be used to repair the world, not to break it further.
- Only steal a word from someone who has shown its misuse.
- As a blacksmith needs a hammer, and a farmer needs a hoe, some people deserve certain Zu words more than others.

- It is the Sons' hope that all men can learn the responsibility of using Zu, and they do not limit their membership culturally.  At the moment, however, nearly all are Zaru.  A minority of Sons know the Secret of Uz over Zu, and these are almost always repentant about it.  Typically, recruitment is done early - a young man (or woman) is observed to be knowledgeable in Zu, and spoken to by a member about Zu, Hanish, and the fate of Zaru.  The young one is then told about the Sons, and asked to join.  If he says yes, he must make a long journey to a particular Ammenite plantation (that is, particular for that person), allow himself to be captured, and train with one of the old Sons, who is a slave there.  The journey must be made alone, just as Hanish did.  This teaches the young one endurance and patience.

The Sons have little more than each other, but this is usually enough.  They typically operate in cells, which function as mini-villages, with older members very helpful in advising the younger, and the younger always ready to act as assistants to the older.  Many Sons operate alone as scouts and observers in plantations.  If someone cannot help, and your cause is great enough, he will direct you to his superior, which may be in another cell.  All Sons are ready to train those who are eager to learn.

In extreme cases, the Sons will assist in an overthrow of Ammenite rule, such as a plantation where conditions are intolerable, or blood-thieves causing havoc.  The Sons try to be merciful in all of these cases.  After all, dead men cannot turn from evil.  Such strikes are well-coordinated, and often conducted entirely with Uptenbo.

Most cells are mini-villages, and therefore large families, with father-figures, old brothers, and younger.  One should defer to the older, and appreciate the support of the younger.  If someone in a cell is lost, everyone 'moves up' and the empty spot is usually filled by a new recruit.  The oldest in the cell knows one or two other cell leaders, usually older than he, or an observer who travels between cells.  In this way, one can eventually meet the Old Man.

Given that the Sons of Hanish are often in slave camps or hiding among Ammenites, they have developed hand-signs for speaking to one another.  The initial greeting is always a flat hand with the fingers held together, and one then spreads them outward like a sun's rays.  This is often disguised as stretching one's fingers, after work in a field, or for a session of Uptenbo.  The sign-language is very simple, and cannot transmit complicated ideas (like arbitrary names) but usually gets an idea across.


- Secret of the Signature Word (Syllable) - Pick a syllable you know when you take this Secret.  You will always have a bonus die when someone is trying to steal this word from you.  If it is stolen, the GM must give you a chance to get it back.  This Secret can be taken multiple times.

- Secret of the Weighted Word - Once per session (three times an adventure?), Secret of Zu or Uz maybe used without spending a Reason die (to give a bonus die / penalty die to the action of another).  REQUIREMENT: Secret of Zu or Uz.

- Key of Staunched Blood - You have a particular interest in blood-thieves, Zaru traitors who either misuse Zu or corrupt the ways of the Zaru.  While you may hate them, their redemption is very important.  Gain 1 XP if you attempt to calm them, or allow them to throw the first punch.  Gain 3 XP if you convert or otherwise cause them to renounce their treason.

Clinton R. Nixon


This stuff is totally awesomely rock. We should talk about whether you want to put this stuff under the same license as TSOY.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games


I hope it's okay to bump this, but I collected the info here and put it in a document that looks vaguely like the original SoY docs that Clinton released.  I don't know anything about CSS, or the program he used to convery the original original, but it seems to look okay.  I used the Creative Commons license from earlier documents as well and included it in the header, and I assume that's all I need to do.

My original site is cleaned up (read: functional) as well, so the other two documents, the 'Book 1' and 'Book 2' (system and setting) for the revised edition are in that directory as well.

Eero Tuovinen

Ah, I don't know how I missed this one the first time around. A point about the mechanics:

Secret of the Expletive (Word) claims that zu is usually used with Reason, when the Pool used actually depends on the manner of use. Two suggestions for fixing it:

Secret of the Expletive
The Ability of Zu(R) is now Zu(I) for this character.

Secret of the Expletive (Word)
The character pays all costs for using the chosen Zu syllable from Instinct. Additionally, Zu(R) is considered an Instinct Ability for rolls related to using the chosen syllable.

Which one fits the purpose better is a matter of taste. I'd probably pick the first one, myself.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


I see what you mean, it wasn't clear at all.

The first option seems like it might be overpowered.  Well, actually, I guess there are two cases.  The first, where a player makes a guy and relies on Reason for rolling when using Zu, then switches over, shifting usefulness of crunchy bits around.  The second case is a player makes a character and takes it as part of his initial Advances before the game starts, and it doesn't (really) matter.

The second option seems more gradual, but then, it suddenly seems silly to spend an Advance for every word you want to use in a roll of Zu(I).

You're right, the first option is probably better, but I might add a requirement of knowing at least one Zu word.  Thanks!